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Any Hope for Action from U.S. Government?

Aired January 27, 2014 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, what should the president say in tomorrow's big speech? What will Republicans offer in return? And how will all of it affect her?

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Whenever I hear people talk about America being in decline -- you hear the same thing -- it just gets my back up.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota. On this eve of the State of the Union, is there any hope for action? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Newt Gingrich on the right.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: And I'm Van Jones on the left.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight we've got two U.S. senators who also happen to be former governors. They know a little bit about how to get things done, and so does President Obama. And that's why tomorrow during the State of the Union, the president's going to make it clear to everybody. If Republicans keep blocking everything that's good, the president's going to use his executive pen and help America anyway. And I say, it's about time.

Can you imagine having a co-worker on your job who sabotages you every single day?

Now, you try to scale back your own ideas, try to accommodate him and he goes, "Well, you're failing to lead." You embrace his ideas, and then he torpedoes his own ideas.

Finally, you just say, "Forget it. I'm going to solve these problems on my own."

Now he says, "You're a dictator." Does this sound familiar? At a certain some point, Mr. President, you've got a job to do. Just get the job done. Now I'm sure you agree with that. I'm sure you two agree with me on this. GINGRICH: I think your grip on reality is so good you probably think the Chicago Bears are going to win Sunday in the Super Bowl. They ain't even playing in the Super Bowl. No, I don't agree with you. But -- but we have in the CROSSFIRE tonight...

JONES: We're going to get into it tonight.

GINGRICH: ... Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Senator John Hoeven.

What's interesting is both of them have been governors. So I'll ask a question of both of you. This is not our normal style. Because you're both governors.

I was really struck that the president with this whole executive pen routine is almost saying he's going to spend the last three years of his presidency not expecting to get much out of the legislative branch. Now you both have been governors. Can you imagine saying to the legislature just before your state of the state speech, "By the way, guys, I'm not going to pay much attention to you for the next three years"? How do you deal with that?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: That's a hard one. But let me just say, as the chief executive, there are things that a chief executive can do in running the day-to-day shop, looking how to be more effective and efficient, looking at the rules and regs they have to work within.

Setting large policies or changing policies without the legislative process is not a thing. I don't think that's what President Obama intends to do. I would think, and like to think, that he's basically looking at what he's allowed to do, what he should be doing in running the government more efficiently.

JONES: But don't you -- don't you agree the president of the United States is not the prime minister. He ran in every state, every county. He's the only guy in this town that had to run everywhere. Don't you think he has a right to do something as president? And if this an executive authority he can use to help this country, shouldn't he use it?

SEN. JOHN HOEVEN (R), NORTH DAKOTA: Look, if he wants to get something done, he has to work with Congress, just like governors have to work with legislatures. And of course, it's not easy. That's why you get involved and you figure out how to compromise. You work together. He's got a majority of his own party...

JONES: Are you going to work with him? Are you working with him?

HOEVEN: Of course we are, absolutely. But he's got to understand that you don't come and dictate an agenda. You offer compromise. That's what Joe did when he was governor; that's what I did when I was governor. And you can't say, "Oh, it's tough, so I'm going to go off by myself."

JONES: That's not what he's doing. GINGRICH: Well, one more thing, because I was very struck by the night he invites the Democrats in the Senate down to the White House, apparently had a martini with them, which I thought was sort of, you know, Obama relaxing a little bit. I mean, doesn't he, in fact, have a solid working majority of the Senate? And couldn't they start from there trying to be positive about dealing with the Congress?

HOEVEN: The arithmetic is simple: We have 5 Democrats. It takes 60 to get things done. There's 45 Republicans. It takes 15 more Democrats to work with the Republicans. We've got to work together. Joe and I understand that. The bottom line is maybe we should have had both Democrats and Republicans at the White House having a martini together. Maybe we could have got something done.

There are a lot of bills that Senator Manchin and I co-sponsor. We can start with some of those. But look, he's going to talk tomorrow night about extending unemployment benefits. We said, "OK, if you pay for it and you make some reforms to job training so you actually get people back to work, we can find a way to compromise." So let's go to work.

JONES: OK. There's one. Let's take another one that's going to be a big one. He will also talk about the need to raise the minimum wage in this country, to give America a raise.

Now I'm going to ask you. You're talking about compromise, working together. Are you going to vote with this president and with a whole bunch of people in America? It's very popular, by the way. I want to show you. It's not just the president by himself. It's the entire country: 71 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage. Only 27 percent oppose. Are you going to support the president on that? Will you vote to raise minimum wage?

HOEVEN: Again, we'll consider working with the president on that, but he's got to come up with a plan where you actually get people back to work. Because if you really want to raise income for people, you've got to -- they've got to get a job.

JONES: Is that a yes or a no?

HOEVEN: Well, consider it. Sure, absolutely.


MANCHIN: Here's the thing. If you go back to 1968 when the minimum wage was 1.60, if you just adjust it for inflation from 1960, it would be a little over $10. That's where we're trying to go. And it's not going all at one time.

I think the minimum wage, everybody will agree that minimum wage has to be raised. You have states doing it without the federal government doing it.

JONES: The governor did it yourself. You did it when you were governor. Now you say you'll consider it. I think that's a big problem for Republican. You guys sound like you just don't care about the working people out there.

HOEVEN: We did -- in my state in order to bring our minimum wage in line with the federal government, part of building that good business climate -- in other words, having a legal regulatory and business climate that encourages job creation, that stimulated investment, and that's the rising tide that lifts all boats. Get people back to work. That's the right approach.

GINGRICH: Governor, Senator, because it does seem to me, to have a minimum wage you have to have a job. And so you have to have -- as you pointed out, the economy -- one of the things that's happening with the Democrats because of the five-year process is the latest poll we saw on this, which I think we're also going to put up, when you ask who do you trust on the economy, this is a big swing. Thirty-seven percent now say Democrats; 44 percent say Republicans.

The president really can't get away with, five years into his term, explaining it's all George W. Bush's fault. I mean, isn't this a -- coming into the fall campaign, isn't this a big problem for Democrats if the economy stays weak and if the country increasingly blames them for it?

MANCHIN: Mr. Speaker, I -- when I was governor, basically you have to build confidence and you have to come in and build -- get your financial house in order. That's the first thing I had to do in West Virginia.

Once you get the finances in order, you can do a lot of things, but if your finances aren't in order, it really cripples you. My grandfather used to say it would make a coward out of you the decisions you'll make if you have unmanaged debt. Which is what we have.

When you think about the last time we balanced the budget, the last year of 2001, when you were very much involved in that when that began. But in 2001 when President Clinton left, where we were with spending, where we were with revenue, we're far off of that track right now.

And I says, John, if we have to have a big fix, don't you think we have to have a fair revenue where people have faith and confidence that we're doing it the right way?

GINGRICH: But when you were governor -- I remember we talked about this one night. When you were governor, you did really decisive things. You have a freeze on unemployment for a while. Did a number of things. Shouldn't the president have some responsibility for showing leadership?

MANCHIN: That is -- that will be -- I'm hoping these next three years the president will be serious about fixing our financial crisis. If we do that, the economy -- builds the economy, we go like that.

JONES: Well, look, speaking of, we're talking about the financial crisis, people being responsible, et cetera, et cetera, we're a couple of weeks away from hitting the debt ceiling once again. And once again, all of a sudden, we've got the Republicans and, "Oh, we're going to stick in the Keystone Pipeline and Obama care."

Do you think that the Republicans are once again going to stick their fork in the socket of putting full faith and credit up to the break, or can we go ahead and do normal business in this town?

HOEVEN: I'm glad you brought that up, particularly Keystone Pipeline. Because there you can create jobs. Doesn't cost one penny for the federal government.

JONES: Oh, here we go with the...

HOEVEN: ... projects for five years. It's about energy independence. It's about creating jobs right now. Vital infrastructure.

But as to your point, look, we have big-time debt and deficit that we have to address. You want to get this economy growing, provide some certainty, just like...

JONES: You want to risk this again.

HOEVEN: Get some reforms and savings to get that deficit and debt under control.

JONES: Are you -- come on, now, say it with me. Are you -- I'm getting nervous, because you're supposed to be the sane one when the crazy one was in the house. You don't sound like you are willing to say that we are not going risk the full faith and credit -- can we do a clean debt ceiling deal or not? Yes or no, Mr. Compromise, Mr. work Together?

HOEVEN: The people of this country want us to address the deficit and debt as any part of debt ceiling agreement. Absolutely. They want us to make sure that we're finding savings and reforms as part of any debt ceiling agreement.

MANCHIN: What we've done -- We have $2 trillion in cuts so far. We only had about $700 billion of revenue from going from 35 to 39.6 on the top. So if we're going to be balancing this out, the revenue is where we've got to look at. We've got to have revenue.

John and I maybe disagree on that, because John says we'll have dynamic growth. I agree but you can't score it. So if you have to have revenue, John, on this, the only thing I'm saying is maybe we can figure out a way, if we spend it to the point to where 70 percent of every dollar coming in new goes to debt reduction and 30 percent goes to infrastructure, is that would something the Republicans would accept, if you don't change the taxes?

HOEVEN: Joe -- Joe, you know as a governor of your state in West Virginia, revenue comes from a growing economy, not from higher taxes. You combine that with better control of our spending, and you'll see this economy really take off. And you know what? Now you get people back to work, and that's....

HOEVEN: That's what you did as a governor. That's what we need to do. MANCHIN: And we can basically cut off the loopholes and offsets and credits and giveaways.

HOEVEN: Tax reform, yes. Not higher taxes.

GINGRICH: All right, guys. Next, I want to ask our guests about the person who wants to rebuild the Democratic Party. Here's a hint. She doesn't drive.


GINGRICH: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, senators Joe Manchin and John Hoeven.

President Obama delivers his State of the Union speech tomorrow night. Today, however, he was upstaged by a speech from his would-be successor, who made a confession.


CLINTON: Last time I actually drove a car myself was 1996, and I remember it very well. And unfortunately, so does the Secret Service, which is why I haven't driven since then.


GINGRICH: Now, here's a woman whose effort to get back in touch with us doesn't involve driving across America or even driving to the grocery store. It's being chauffeured to the National Auto Dealers Association convention to tell them, quote, "I wish I could drive one of your cars"?

But we should feel good. She did at least admit she's in touch with the feeling of foreigners.


CLINTON: I was very pleased that we got a budget agreement, for example. I'm hoping that we get past this next debt limit, you know, challenge, because I know how the rest of the world watches us.


GINGRICH: Now, Senator Manchin, I know that you are very articulate, very popular person back home in West Virginia. So I'm just curious, how are you going to walk into some store in a small town in West Virginia and explain a nominee who hasn't driven in 18 years but who' really glad that foreigners approve of how we're doing things?

MANCHIN: I think that could be twisted just a little bit, but the bottom line is, is that maybe that's why it's more appealing for that she should be president because then we'll still have someone that basically can drive the --

GINGRICH: So we can say "keep Hillary off the road, vote Hillary for president"? That's the most unusual slogan. MANCHIN: I think we know that basically with her job and her profession and where she's been, her schedule and things of that sort, that happens. It happens to many people.

GINGRICH: Do you want her to run?



VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Well, I mean, look, first of all --


GINGRICH: I want to see where you go with this.

JONES: I think that talking about the first lady, former first lady, she does need to be protected. I think we would probably think if she's wandering out there by herself without Secret Service protection, it would be a bad thing.

I want to come back to not the speech from today from the former first lady, former secretary of state, State of the Union tomorrow. You said something early that I thought was terrible. You said that this Keystone Pipeline that you're all in favor is some massive job- creating machine when it actually turns out that this pipeline is not coming to America, it's going through America. Most of that oil is going to go to China and it's only going to create 4,000 temporary jobs, 35 permanent jobs.

Why would you risk, why would you risk the debt ceiling over a boondoggle like this? And you still never answered my question, clean debt ceiling, yes or no?

HOEVEN: For debt ceiling agreement I think we have to have savings and reforms. I think the American people strongly feel that way, too. As for Keystone, look, you want to create vital infrastructure in this country, there's a great example. Here it is held up for five years. You've got an energy renaissance going on in this country led by states like mine and we can't get the basic infrastructure even to get it to market?

Thirty-five jobs. The State Department itself says more than 40,000 jobs, creates hundreds of millions in revenue, and you can tell the Middle East to take a hike, we've got our own energy right here. And the administration saying no?

JONES: I'm all for -- I'm all for American energy, I'm all for solar, wind, I'm all for us figuring out cleaner burning ways to do and this president supports --

HOEVEN: Let's do it all. Let's not hold a project like Keystone, for five years?

JONES: Keystone is the biggest boondoggle. Do you think that a company called TransCanada is that interested in making America struggle (ph), that interested in making American energy prices go down? It is a foreign corporation --


HOEVEN: It's a great example of why this economy is going nowhere because administration has tied it up in regulatory burden and there's a case in point.

MANCHIN: I better jump in here.


MANCHIN: Let me tell you why it was bipartisan. First of all, my little state of West Virginia, we think we ought to buy from our friends versus our enemies.

JONES: Nothing is wrong with that.

MANCHIN: And that's basically -- Canada has been the best friend we've ever had, best trading partner we've got and our best ally. With that being said, that oil is going to go somewhere --


JONES: According to TransCanada that's somewhere in China.

MANCHIN: Well, it's going to go to China if they build it, if it goes west --


HOEVEN: Check the Department of Energy report --

MANCHIN: We're secure. We want to be a more secure nation. And the more access we have to energy, the more secure we are.

JONES: OK, well --


JONES: Let's argue about something we might be able to get somewhere like immigration. Let's got --

GINGRICH: I have to ask one more question of Senator Manchin. He's ably represented West Virginia. Would you agree that this president is pro coal? My good friend here was sort of --


JONES: -- about $5 billion for clean coal in the state, let's back it up.

MANCHIN: Well, there's money in it, they just haven't spent it. OK, the difference is I'm having a problem, as you know, with the fossil -- coal is the only affordable, reliable, dependable energy we've made in this country. It's part of the energy package. Even the Department of Energy says it's going to be needed to 2030 to 2040. What that means is that I would like to see more health -- more of a partnership and I haven't gotten that as much as I would like to see it. I'm fighting that every day, and we're trying to --

JONES: Let's go one more place. We don't have unlimited time. We can come back and argue about coal, Democrats argue about coal --

MANCHIN: The balance, an energy policy that (INAUDIBLE) for the country.


JONES: That $5 billion for clean coal I think is really important.

But let's talk about something else -- how about immigration? Here's an issue that most Americans have come to understand is a critical issue for American values, for American families and yet your party can't seem to do the right thing. I want to read you a quote today from one of your colleagues, Mr. Sessions.

He says, "So, now, we're going to take an issue that divides Republicans -- talking about immigration -- not good for working Americans." Apparently, helping immigrants is bad for working Americans. "And alter the definition of the election to a controversial issue like immigration. I think it would be, from a purely political of view, wrong."

Now, you have a party that is seen as being exclusive, that doesn't seem to be opening, doesn't seem to be welcoming. This has become a signature issue. Don't comments like this, saying that he people who are helping to build America hurt working America, doesn't that hurt your party? Do you agree with Mr. Sessions?

HOEVEN: Immigration reform has to be done the right way. That means, first, secure the border. And to get the public support, to get the American people on board, you've got to secure the border, first.

Then, you've got to enforce workplace law. You have to make sure that you have entry and exit systems at all international airports and seaports, and then, and only then, are you going to get the public's support to get immigration reform.

JONES: Everybody agrees with you on that. But --

HOEVEN: And that's the step-by-step approach the House is working to take.

JONES: Wait, you were part of a sensible plan like that in the Senate. This does not sound like somebody who wants to move in a sensible direction. This sounds like somebody who is saying the issue itself should not be addressed this year.

HOEVEN: Back to what we started --

JONES: Does it hurt your party? HOEVEN: Back to what we talked about at the outset. The president needs to engage. The House is saying that they'll work on immigration reform, but it needs to be a step-by-step approach. So, administration, engage, let's go to work.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you a question, totally different, because I watched you, and we've had many friendly conversations.

MANCHIN: Yes, we had.

GINGRICH: Remind me a little bit of former Senator Zell Miller who finally said to me one day that the Democrat Caucus had convinced him that his party had left him. Don't you feel at times enormous stress between all of the core values you represent in West Virginia and the debate in the caucus?

MANCHIN: There's a lot of things as -- on the Washington level that's different than the West Virginia level, and I think even my Republican friends will say the same when they come from their states.

With that being said, I still have -- I guess I still root for the underdog. I want to help -- give a helping hand to anybody and everybody that I can, but I expect them to do something.

I come from a family that we had rules and regulations. We had to work. We had to contribute. We had to give back, and all these things, and I really think the Democratic Party has the core values of a West Virginia Democrat. I feel good about that, but sometimes the national party goes a different direction.

GINGRICH: So, one like Zell who gave a speech at the 2004 Republican Convention, shouldn't expect you to show up at our convention in 2016.

MANCHIN: I don't think so.

HOEVEN: I'll tell you, Joe works on a lot of issues though that Americans want.

MANCHIN: It's common sense.

HOEVEN: And he works on it in a way that we can find common ground, no question about it.

MANCHIN: Can I say one thing?

JONES: Stay here.


JONES: We'll come back. You can say it then. Next I want to make sure we get the final question in for our guest when we get back.

I also want you at home to be able to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Should President Obama bypass congress to enact his agenda through some executive action? Tweet yes or no using #crossfire. We're going to give you the results when we get back from this break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JONES: We are back with Senators Joe Manchin and John Hoeven.

Now, it's time for the final question.

So, first to you. Senator, you got a number of responses coming tomorrow from the Republicans. You've got Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. She's giving the official Republican response. You've got Senator Mike Lee. He's giving the Tea Party response. You've got Senator Rand Paul giving the Rand Paul response.

Which one of them speaks for you?

HOEVEN: Hey, we're a big-tent party.

Look, we need a president that's going to commit to work with Congress, to face the challenges and meet the challenges that this country needs dealt with, not go off on his own. So, we're going to look for him to work with us to get the job done.

JONES: But isn't this a mess, come on? Isn't this a mess?


JONES: Three responses from your party.

HOEVEN: We are allowed the diversity of opinion.

JONES: That's a big shopping mall.

HOEVEN: Debate gets us to good results.

GINGRICH: You guys used to like the big tent idea.

JONES: Fair enough.

GINGRICH: So, I want to ask -- I'm going to put you on the spot for a second, representing one of the great coal states. If we end up with Republicans gaining as many seats as they might, we could end up basically in a tie. If in a tie, your vote was the one vote that mattered between Harry Reid of Nevada and a coal senator, is it automatic, or do you start thinking?

MANCHIN: You mean a coal senator from the standpoint of what, being leader?

GINGRICH: From the standpoint of Kentucky.

MANCHIN: Oh, oh. We have to sit down --

GINGRICH: What if Reid and McConnell were exactly even and you were the deciding vote?

MANCHIN: What would give me a little more flexibility, and a little bit more (INAUDIBLE), if you would, don't you? (LAUGHTER)

MANCHIN: I think I'd have a little bit more to say.

GINGRICH: I'd love to be a fly on the wall watching you negotiate --

MANCHIN: I'll tell you one thing. I'll guarantee you one thing, West Virginia will be well represented then.


GINGRICH: And I believe that is absolutely the case because you've had the experience and the toughness to do it.

MANCHIN: Let me just say this. The president is the president. Democrat or Republican, man or woman, and you want that president to do well. We've got to be Americans. We've got to come together.

John and I have been able to do it as governors.

GINGRICH: That's right.

MANCHIN: We know how to come together, not embarrass each other, not to send each other home thinking, well, I'll go home and beat you. We're going to work together, we've got to start working together and we all start tomorrow night.

HOEVEN: That's right, Joe.

JONES: Well said.

GINGRICH: We want to thank Senators Manchin and Hoeven for what's began a great session. Let's go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question.

Should President Obama bypass Congress to enact his agenda through executive action? Right now, 48 percent of you say yes, and 52 percent say no.

The debate continues online. Go to to check out the discussion Van and I shared with thousands of you earlier today.

JONES: From the left, I'm Van Jones.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich. Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

Thank you.